Embattled Angola Warden Burl Cain is the target of a criminal investigation by the Inspector General’s Office and the State Police with the cooperation of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, officials said Friday.
The announcement comes two days after the Inspector General’s Office confirmed a new probe was starting, but the news conference held Friday at DPSC headquarters made clear multiple agencies are working together on the investigation.
Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc said he could not elaborate on the substance of the review. A representative from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, which already announced a probe into Cain’s private real estate dealings following articles in The Advocate, would have been part of Friday’s news conference if there had been more time to prepare for it, LeBlanc said.
Cain, who made a surprising announcement last week that he was stepping down in the wake of allegations against him, did not attend.
“As you’re aware, there have been several allegations about Warden Cain over the last several weeks. In the last week, there have been announcements about reviews by multiple agencies,” LeBlanc said in his brief remarks, highlighting that the security of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is his highest priority.
Last month, The Advocate reported Cain, who served as head of the storied penitentiary for two decades, did real estate deals with family and friends of two inmates who, during their sentences at Angola, were offered favorable treatment not available to most offenders. The transactions appeared to go against corrections rules prohibiting “nonprofessional relationships” between employees and inmates’ friends and relatives. Based on the articles, the corrections department announced it would do an internal review that would be complete by Christmas. LeBlanc said Friday the results would be handed to the Legislative Auditor’s Office — which is conducting its own review — before they’re publicized.
But Greg Phares, chief investigator at the Inspector General’s Office, reiterated that the new criminal probe concerns a different matter involving Cain than the real estate transactions reported by The Advocate.
State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson, who was recently reappointed by incoming Gov. John Bel Edwards, said his investigators are pulling records at Angola, including timesheets of corrections employees, in connection with the new probe.
“Keep in mind that we deal with facts,” Edmonson said. “To maintain the stability of that prison is paramount. … It’s so easy to be caught up in the moment of rumors and things that are being said, but until we can base them on facts, please give us the opportunity to work with those.”
The Edwards team has not made an announcement yet about whether LeBlanc will stay on as corrections secretary or whether a new person will be appointed. LeBlanc and Cain, who have worked together for some 30 years, are close professional and personal allies, and LeBlanc recused himself from the corrections department’s internal investigation into Cain.
Inspector General Stephen Street said Friday that in his investigations over the years, “Secretary LeBlanc and his staff have always been most helpful, most cooperative. We believe a joint investigation in this matter, along with Col. Edmonson at State Police, will actually help us get to the bottom of this situation more quickly.”
No deadline for the criminal probe was announced.
Efforts to reach Cain on Friday were unsuccessful.